Richard Hooker moves from the preface of the Lawes, in which he set out the rational for his work, to explicating his argument in Book One. In beginning his argument concerning the right ordering of the Church of England, Hooker turns to an examination of the concept of law. The course of Book One runs from divine law, celestial law, natural law, human law, and laws divinely revealed in Scripture. Hooker warns his readers from the outset, that this investigation into the nature of laws is not clear.
“Which because wee are not oftentimes accustomed to doe, when we doe it the paines wee take are more needefull a great deale, then acceptable, and the matters which we handle seeme by reason of newnesse (till the minde grow better acquainted with them) darke, intricate and unfamiliar” (I.1.2, 20-25).
Hooker defines law as that which regulates operations or defines what a thing is. Because God is the source of all things, God is the source of all law. Not only is God the source of law, but the “being of God is a kinde of lawe to his working: for that perfection which God is, geveth perfection to that he doth” (I.2.2, 5-6). Hooker thought makes clear that his goal is not to define the inner workings of God’s own being in terms of Trinitarian relations but rather only to describe how God operates according to God’s own laws in external matters. To speculate on the Trinity is not Hooker’s goal both because he views church teaching on the matter sufficient and that “our safest eloquence concerning him is our silence” (I.2.2, 16-17).
Indeed to even be able to fully discern the purpose of God’s actions are not always possible, though Hooker does not deny the rationality of God’s acts, despite their inscrutability (I.2.5, 18-27). God’s divine law orders all things, but humans can not fully apprehend it. “The booke of this law we are neither able nor worthie to open and looke into. That little thereof which we darkly apprehend, we admire, the rest with religious ignorance we humbly and meekly adore” (I.2.5, 10-14). All law, the law of the cosmos, the law of human society, the law of scripture, the law of the church, has its origin in God. Yet the divine ordering of God’s own self is only partially known to human beings.